Inspiring Youth Through Film: Climate Education and Action

Text on this image reads: Inspiring Youth Through Film, Climate Action

Film posters from Landfill Harmonic, Climate Emergency: Feedback Loops and Youth V Gov are on the image as well.

Film is a powerful tool capable of not only educating, but also inspiring youth. Inspiring youth through film is possible when you combine climate education and action. Climate anxiety is a real thing. A recent Nature study revealed that 45% of youth surveyed reported feelings about climate change affecting their daily lives, and 65% of the participants agreed with the statement that governments are failing young people with their responses (or lack thereof) to climate change. But, through the power of film and related resources, it is possible to provide youth with opportunities to take climate action which can counter climate anxiety.

Climate Education and Action

Knowledge is power. Education is the first time. Then action. When individuals (youth or adults) feel helpless about a challenge facing them personally or facing their community or facing the world (as in the case of climate change and/or environmental challenges), anxiety is a natural human response. However, in my experience working with youth and as a parent, I’ve come to understand that overwhelm by an outside reality is greatly lessened by opportunity and action. To counter feelings of anxiety and helplessness, it’s important to remind youth that while they may feel helpless, they are not helpless. A powerful way to do this is by sharing films that demonstrate agency, particularly agency of youth working to create change in their communities. 

Both documentary and narrative films highlighting youth action can provide solace, support, and inspiration to our own children or to the youth we work with as they see creative thinking, problem-solving, and action on screen. 

Grid image. Top left: movie poster for Whale Rider. Top right: movie poster for  JANE, a film about Jane Goodall. Bottom left: movie poster for Greener Pastures. Bottom right: movie poster for The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.

Inspiring Youth Through Film

  • The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind – Inspired by a memoir of the same name, this narrative film tells the inspiring true story of William Kamkwamba, a Malawian boy who, against all odds, finds an unexpected way to help his village as it faces severe drought and starvation. William’s community is deeply affected by climate change, but William uses his education and creativity to take action and support his community. Journeys in Film has a free discussion guide for this film. 
  • Climate Emergency: Feedback Loops – For science lovers in your life, this series of five short films about feedback loops are FREE to stream and really dig into the challenges facing our climate and to how feedback loops work making the point that feedback loops go BOTH ways, so while there may be negative feedback loops in action for the climate, each film always highlights the ways that POSITIVE feedback loops can be created as well. Journeys in Film has a curriculum guide for the film series, which is available in English and Spanish. My favorite is Lesson 5 in which students research youth climate activists around the world and create community project to support climate action in their corner of the world.
  • Greener Pastures – For older youth, this film highlights the realities and challenges facing farmers in the U.S. and points to regenerative farming practices and the connections between mental health and physical health. The Journeys in Film discussion guide for this film includes a section on Community Action and Engagement

Please share the ways you inspire youth in your life to learn about the world around them! Films, books, activities! We want to hear about them all.

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Jennifer Fischer

Jennifer Fischer is a writer, mediamaker, and teaching artist whose work has been featured by NBCLatino, ABC, Univision, Fusion, NBCBLK, etc. Her film “THE wHOLE” premiered at Amnesty International’s 50th Anniversary Human Rights Conference. Recent publications include pieces in Ms. Magazine, Last Girls Club, Literary Mama, Oranges Journal, Barzakh Magazine and Under Her Eye from Black Spot Books. An essay of hers appears in What is a Criminal? Answers from Inside the U.S. Justice System, an anthology from Routledge, published Jan. 2023.

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